When you think of Australian rock in the ’90s, you can’t help but jump straight to Grinspoon. Hailing from Lismore on the North Coast of NSW, Grinspoon formed in 1995, subsequently taking out triple j Unearthed in its inaugral year. By 1997 they had released their debut album Guide To Better Living – which makes 2017 the 20th anniversary of that release.

To celebrate this milestone, the band have chosen to come out of their ‘indefinite hiatus’ (breaking hearts everywhere in 2013), not so much re-releasing Guide To Better Living as exploding it. Sitting at a bohemouth 49 tracks, the album features rare recordings, live tracks and unreleased songs. We caught guitarist Pat Davern for a chat about where Grinspoon have been hiding and what’s in store for their upcoming 20th anniversary tour.

“We finished Black Rabbits in 2013 and we decided after that we wanted to have a break from making records,” Davern muses. “When we were invited to come out on the road with Cold Chisel [in 2015], that was kind of out of the blue, but we decided to do it out of how much respect we have for Cold Chisel and we thought it would be a fun way for the band to get back together… At the end of 2015, our manager came in and said ‘What do you want to do now? How do you feel about doing a 20th anniversary tour in 2017 for A Guide To Better Living?’

“You never know how much love there’s going to be out there for an album tour, a retrospective tour,” he admits. “We’ve been really pleasantly surprised – we didn’t go in with too high expectations and we were hoping that people would really want to see us do it. We’re over the moon. [Putting together the album] was a trip, and daunting to think that you’d have to play a lot of this stuff live! There are a lot of songs that we haven’t played since the ‘90s and it’s going take a lot of rehearsals to get it all together. No one has stepped away from music, so we are still gig ready.”

Although frontman Philip Jamieson let slip in an interview with Triple M that he wasn’t such a fan of looking back, Davern scoffs: ‘I think he secretly loves nostalgia… how can you not love nostalgia, right?” But there’s a lot more to repackaging a heritage act than announcing a tour and compiling a re-release, and Davern isn’t ignoring the fact that bringing back their on-stage energy 20 years down the track is going to be less than simple. “To give it that vibe from when we were younger I think we’re going to have to try really hard… It’s a pretty raw, aggressive, loudmouthed album. We are going to have to do it justice. Rock’n’roll is a fantasy land and most of us haven’t really had to do too much – we’ve had the opportunity not to have to grow up and so I still think we have a responsibility to really do that album justice.”

The band isn’t the only thing to have changed since the ’90s; I was interested to hear who they expected to be engaging in the tour now that the audience demographic has diversified. I wouldn’t be alone in saying that I have grown to love the establishment acts of the ’90s, even though when the Guide To Better Living was released I was, in fact, three years old. Hopefully the shows will attract a mixed crowd celebrating classic Aussie rock at its best. “Is it going to be people who are our age?” he suggests. “You know, we are 40 now, is it going to be those people who have babies with them or is it going to be young people? I don’t think we’ll really know until we get there,” he laughs. “There could be people who have been introduced to us by their parents… across the board, it’s going to be an interesting tour to see from a crowd perspective the kind of people that are passionate to see us doing this record. Is it going to be a mixture of young and old or is it just going to be our old fans? I’m hoping there’s going to be a bit of everything and I have a feeling there will be.” 

The festival scene throught the ’90s and ’00s was undeniably dominated by Grinspoon – think Big Day Out, Homebake, Falls Festival and Splendour In The Grass. Alongside Spiderbait, Powderfinger and The Living End, Grinspoon took rowdy teens to another level of mosh pit hype. Bringing it forward, this year’s Groovin The Moo saw Jamieson crash Violent Soho’s set to perform More Than You Are. With Splendour In The Grass just around the corner, can we expect Davern and the crew to hit the main stage once more?

“The festival scene has changed a lot since we used to do it. I know there are ‘heritage acts’ that go and do festivals, but right now it’s more about doing our own shows and seeing what happens after that.”

As the first graduates of triple j Unearthed, Grinspoon are no doubt in the back of most young bands’ minds when it comes to dreaming of where their music could go. Coming from a rural NSW town and barely out of high school, Grinspoon took Unearthed and ran with it, setting the foundation for what is now an integral institution in Australia’s music industry. I asked Davern what he has observed change in the music scene over the years. “It’s totally different… before us and triple j Unearthed, [the industry] was even harder to break. It was at a time where triple j was just being rolled out across the nation and we had the opportunity to go out and tour places where people hadn’t heard of our music – that was crucial to our success in Australia. It’s still up to the artists to be producing music that people connect with; that’s the hardest thing. There are ample opportunities to be heard. Australia’s got a long history of producing really good music. People still have a great feeling for older bands like Midnight Oil and Australians like live music. People don’t sit at home; they go out and see it. I think people in Australia really embrace local content and we’re really lucky.”

Speaking of triple j, in light of the recent step down of Richard Kingsmill as Music Director, Davern reveals that although they aren’t on as high a rotation as they used to be their relationship is still strong. “It has been a long time that we’ve had a lot to do with triple j [but] I consider Richard Kingsmill an old friend, and I guess he recognised that it was time to step down… I guess it was a shake up that needed to be made in that department – triple j is an important and necessary service for young people in Australia and I don’t think there’s going to be anything that’s really going to hold it back.”

In the coming months, we can expect a revival like no other. Grinspoon is heading around the country on tour with Illawarra locals Hockey Dad in support, and they’ve tried to keep it as focused on their original haunts as possible, paying homage to the regional areas which supported them way back when. “We really want to concentrate on doing our own shows and doing our tour to a few more rural areas that were a bit more integral to the success of the band on the back of A Guide To Better Living originally,” he smiles.

“We got sent a bunch of different acts that were interested in doing the tour and to be honest I didn’t know a lot about Hockey Dad. I liked their sound, I liked that they were willing to do the gigs and willing to do the work. They’re a good little band, I think Phil was more aware of them than anyone else and I think he lobbied more than anyone else for them to be on the tour. I’ve never met them, but from all reports they’re good guys and it’s good to have them on board.”

I will most definitely be at the Sydney show (with my parents), willing on an era of Aussie music that will surely never die. Grinspoon’s Guide To Better Living has surely worked for them, as they have certainly not lost touch, in fact, they just seem to be getting started.

23 June, Kay St Entertainment Complex, Traralong
30 June, Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
1 July, Village Green Hotel, Mulgrave
6 & 7 July, Enmore Theatre, Sydney
8 & 9 July, The Tivoli, Brisbane
29 July, One Tropical Day, Darwin Ski Club, Darwin
3 August, The Wool Exchange, Geelong
4 August, Pier Bandroom, Frankston
5 & 6 August, Granada Tavern, Hobart
10 August, The Jack, Cairns
11 August, Dalrymple Hotel, Townsville
12 August, Magnums, Airlie Beach
17 August, Villa Noosa, Noosaville
18 August, Redland Bay Hotel, Redland Bay
19 August, Shaka Fest, Miami Tavern, Gold Coast
24 August, Dunsborough Tavern, Dunsborough
25 August, Metro City, Perth
26 August, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
31 August, The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
1 September, Lismore City Hall, Lismore
2 September, Racehorse Hotel, Ipswich
14 September, The Entrance Leagues Club, Bateau Bay
15 September, Waves, Wollongong
16 September, UC Refectory, Canberra
20 September, CSU, Wagga Wagga
21 September, Barooga Sports Club, Barooga
22 September, Beer Deluxe, Albury
23 September, Nex Newcastle, Newcastle

Support: Hockey Dad